The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht

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The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht

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Mai 14, 2011, 11:53am

This thread is for discussion of The Tiger's Wife. I'll read it in June, prior to the announcement of the Orange Prize winner on June 8th.

Bearbeitet: Mai 15, 2011, 2:53am

Here's my review, I loved it - 5 stars from me.

This book envelopes the reader in a realistic world of war and mucus and a big, friendly, dumb white dog with a square black head, loved and even slightly worshipped by all who know him. Then there' an equally real seeming fantasy world of a deathless man, a town sparsely populated with damaged veterans, and a woman married to a tiger. And there's the in between world of the tiger himself, big, and orange with a square head, feared and hated by almost everyone who knows of him. There's a batterer musician butcher, an apothecary that I don't understand, a little bear killer, a dying, living loving grandfather, and an accomplished doctor granddaughter. The story is set in the real Balkans but in mythical villages there. The symbolism in this book vibrates in your soul like the low rumblings of the tiger

Mai 15, 2011, 3:26am

I loved your review Joyce and now I can't wait to meet those square headed animals!

Mai 15, 2011, 8:54am

I liked The Tiger's Wife a lot, and your review, Joyce, is an impressive, concise response to it.

Mai 15, 2011, 8:57am

Great review, Joyce! I also can't wait to read it now.

Mai 15, 2011, 4:12pm

Thanks, all. I'm such a bad reviewer you can tell the book must have been great to have encouraged me to write more than a couple os sentences. I think it's going to win the Orange, though I haven't read all the others.

Mai 16, 2011, 10:51am

Here's my review of The Tiger's Wife, which I was lucky to snag through the Early Reviewers program:

It takes a talented writer to infuse stories of folklore and reality into a book that’s both captivating and realistic. It’s not an easy recipe for storytelling, but sometimes the best stories are the hardest ones to tell. I think that’s the case in Tea Obreht’s debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife.

Set in unnamed Balkan nations, The Tiger’s Wife tells the story of Natalia, a young physician who is traveling to an orphanage to inoculate wartime orphans. En route, she learns of her grandfather’s death. Natalia knew her grandfather was ill with cancer, so his death came as no surprise, but she was stunned to learn where her grandfather died – in a little village near the orphanage where she was headed. Why was he there instead of at home with Natalia’s grandmother and mother?

As Natalia contemplates her grandfather’s death, she reminisces about his life – specifically stories from his childhood and youth. There’s the Tiger’s Wife – a young deaf-mute woman from his village – and the Deathless Man – who captures souls before people die. Even further, you learn about the village butcher, apothecary and local bear killer. Here’s where Obreht shines: the retelling of folkloric stories, the conjuring of superstition and the devastations of war. In these tales, which are woven through Natalia’s narrative, the reader must employ patience and suspend some level of disbelief. In doing so, you will be rewarded with stories that will enrich and delight you.

The rhythm of The Tiger’s Wife takes some getting used to. Stylistically, it’s a complicated novel with interweaving story lines and time frames. Even writers with more experience could lose themselves in this storytelling. The fact that Obreht didn’t is a testament to her writing talent. I would recommend The Tiger’s Wife to readers who enjoy folklore with contemporary fiction. I look forward to future stories by this talented young writer.

Mai 16, 2011, 6:00pm

mstreme and Citizen Joyce -both of you have written beautful reviews. I look forward to reading The Tiger's Wife. Thanks for your wonderful reviews.

Mai 16, 2011, 8:39pm

I hope you like it as much as we did, Deb. Good review Deb. You show just how different this book is.

Mai 17, 2011, 9:50pm

Wonderful reviews. Just waiting for my copy to arrive now . . . .

Jun. 3, 2011, 2:25pm

I really enjoyed this one, too. Here is a cut and paste of my review:

In my earliest memory, my grandfather is bald as a stone and he takes me to see the tigers.

The Tiger's Wife is a rather odd novel, not quite like anything I have read before, and it took a couple of days of reflection for me to decide how much I liked it. In the end, I decided that I liked it very much, in part because it did cause me to think about it rather than close the book with a “well, that's that.”

Natalia is a doctor who is traveling to an orphanage, with her friend and fellow doctor Zora, to inoculate the children. In two war torn but unnamed countries, there is fresh hostility and suspicion, not the way things used to be. While waiting for a border crossing approval, Natalia learns that her grandfather has died, and he was not where he was supposed to be when he died. Something of a mystery.

The story actually told surprisingly little about Natalia and Zora. It was really the grandfather's tale. He had two important stories in his life: The Deathless Man, which he told to Natalia, and The Tiger's Wife, which she had to discover for herself.

This is not a straightforward, linear book. Tales branch off into other tales, characters that seem initially inconsequential have important stories of their own. It all has a fairytale feel to it. There is much description and relatively little action, but it all ties together beautifully. The last paragraph of the book is absolutely gorgeous.

I was given an advance reader's edition of this book by the publisher for review. Thank you to Random House and LibraryThing.

Jul. 7, 2011, 12:01am

I will finish this book by tomorrow and I love it...I love everything about it. I fell into this book and actually wish it were longer so I could enjoy Obreht's writing a little longer. I'll post my review by Friday...but this one is getting 5 stars from me. Amazing.

Jul. 7, 2011, 10:18am

>12 writestuff:
writestuff, if you love it before you've finished it, you'll want to be able to give it 6 stars by the time you reach the end. This is one of those rare books that stays with me after books I've read since then have been forgotten.

Jul. 10, 2011, 12:14pm

Jul. 12, 2011, 8:58pm

I'm afraid I have to be the spoilsport on this thread. After Wendy's 5-star review I really, really wanted to like The Tiger's Wife. We almost always see eye-to-eye on books. For at least half the book, it was just OK. I was having a very hard time getting into the story (stories). Then a few things caught my interest and I thought it was heading from 3 stars to 4, but that wasn't sustained. I have only just finished it and need to think about this before writing a review, so sorry my thoughts aren't very well formed.

Jul. 17, 2011, 2:50pm

15 - I am just over halfway through and I totally agree with you. I think the writing is wonderful. She has a gorgeous way of telling stories and I really enjoy that part of it. But, I am finding the transition between past/present to be really weird. I keep having to go back because I frequent find that the story changed on me and I am lost.

Jul. 31, 2011, 7:01am

I really loved this book, I finished a couple of days ago. I found the transitions between past and present part of the charm of the book, I just went with the flow.

Aug. 8, 2011, 9:47pm

Well, looks like it was just Laura & I who didn't enjoy this book! It just completely failed to grab me and seduce me. I even read three other books while ploughing through this one, and whenever I had to return to it, I could almost feel myself gritting my teeth.

I did not find it well written. I did not care about any of the characters. I did not think she kept track of all the different threads well enough (or at any rate, I couldn't keep track of the different threads).

And it was a sense of frustration, rather than relief, when I got to the end, because this could have been so much more fun to read.

I did like the deathless man, I thought he had a great backstory and a great present (and a great presence). And I did like when we dipped into other characters' backstories (the interlinking of the deathless man & Luka's backstory was a high point, in particular).

But did anyone *really* buy Natalia as a doctor? She was the weakest point for me, I never believed her as a real character once (why doesn't she just tell Zora that her grandfather has died??). Zora was more believable, but didn't get enough time in the book. I know the story isn't about Natalia, it's about her telling the story of the tiger's wife as told to her by her grandfather, but if you don't believe your narrator is a real person, you're in trouble.

And Shere Khan is neither as glossy or as threatening in The Jungle Book as he is meant to be in this book.

Aug. 9, 2011, 8:01am

Tania, you have a point about Natalia. Her character wasn't very well developed and I too couldn't believe she could be mourning her grandfather and yet not tell Zora about it.

As for Shere Khan, I had to work hard to keep the Disney Jungle Book movie out of my head.

Aug. 9, 2011, 10:30am

Although I really liked the book, I agree with you about Natalia, wookiebender. And I did want to know more about Zora. Natalia was just a way to tie the other stories together, a way to bring out the grandfather's stories, and her character didn't draw me in as it should. But I liked the rest of the writing enough to make up for that. For me, it wasn't one of those books that felt like a chore to read, but I know what you mean when you describe gritting your teeth. I've read books like that, but this one didn't affect me that way.

Aug. 9, 2011, 11:48pm

#19> Laura, I've never seen the Disney adaptation of The Jungle Book. (Well, maybe when I was a kid, but I don't remember it.) But I did read the book just the other day (straight after finishing The Tiger's Wife), and Shere Khan is a bully and nasty, but not as scary as Bagheera, who is actually on Mowgli's side. Bagheera and Baloo were the standouts of that book for me. (And Rikki Tikki Tavi!)

#20> I'm glad other people like it, I'm just all grumpy because I wanted to like it, and I paid $33 for my copy. If it had been a cheaper second hand copy, or not a winner of the Orange Prize, I might have been nicer about it because the disappointment (fiscal and entertainment-wise) would have been less. I'll try to calm down before I write my review. :)

Aug. 10, 2011, 12:29am

$33! Well, there's your problem. I think the book is one that has to be savored in big gulps, dissecting every little part diminishes it considerably, but if I had that $33 poking at my critical faculties, I'm afraid I wouldn't have been able to do much gulping either.

Aug. 10, 2011, 1:50am

Standard price for a nice new trade paperback in Australia, I'm afraid. I do buy a lot of second hand books and visit the library copious times to make up for the occasional brand new Must Have book. :)

Aug. 10, 2011, 1:53am

Wow, are your wages commensurate? I think twice, three times before buying a book that costs more than $13 on Nook.

Aug. 10, 2011, 5:47am

$33. OUCH.

Aug. 10, 2011, 7:57am

Hm, Joyce, I'm not quite sure about wage parity. Stuff just costs a lot in Australia: part of being a fairly small nation (population wise) and being very very far away from a lot of the rest of the world. Costs a lot to get stuff here, and we don't have the buying power to get things cheaper. And we are a relatively wealthy nation, most of us aren't hurting.

BUT there is a lot of outrage lately that we're being charged 50% more on things like iTunes compared to the US when there's absolutely no shipping cost. People are beginning to price compare online as a matter of course, and the local retailers are beginning to feel the sting. (Funnily enough, a study just showed that online retailing is also adding $80 billion to the Australian economy, so it's just the traditional retailers who were too scared/in denial about online shopping who are missing out. Businesses who got in early with online shopping are doing well.)

I'm half helping my local retailers (I *like* my local bookshop!! I don't want it to go!!), but I'm also beginning to buy from The Book Depository (etc) a lot more now.

Usually I check and see if a book is available at the library; then check and see if it's available locally and put it on my wishlist if it is; and I hit TBD if it's not available easily in Sydney.

Tomorrow I'm planning on hitting my favourite bookshops in town: I have in mind a Penguin classic ($10, so hardly worth trying to source second hand or from TBD), and I'm going to pre-order a fun looking sci-fi romp that is discounted on their website (and will be in the local shops before an order from TBD will reach me, if my last order with them - 3 weeks and still waiting! - is anything to go by). It's still going to cost me $28, but I reckon I can afford to help them along a little. (Jeez, it's half that price on TBD!! Why did I go looking???)

Aug. 10, 2011, 9:43am

That price disparity does hurt! The price doesn't affect whether a book is good or not, but it certainly can affect how much you can enjoy it. If I had to pay $33 for a book, I'd expect it to be pretty close to perfect in all ways. I know shipping between the US and Australia is very expensive for individual items, but still.... And for iTunes - that is crazy.

You have my sympathy! And also a little jealousy - I'd love to visit Australia someday.

Aug. 10, 2011, 9:13pm

Yes, come and visit Australia! Just bring your own books. ;)

I used to be okay with ~$30 for a nice brand new book, it didn't worry me because, really, $30 is pretty good for hours of entertainment. Now I'm getting fussy, now I've been shown that other people pay half of that, for exactly the same entertainment.

Bearbeitet: Aug. 11, 2011, 6:26pm

Wow - when I was in Australia (about 10 years ago), the conversion rate from AU$ to GBP was about 3:1, so your $33 seemed not unreasonable when I first read it (although maybe more for a hardback than a paperback), but looking at the exchange rate now, that's about £21 - that's ridiculous!!

Well, I absolutely loved The Tiger's Wife (I've yet to write any kind of a review beyond the brief comments I left on my 75 Challenge thread, but I'll try to do so soon).

I was interested in both Zora and Natalia, but for me, there story was just backdrop, so it didn't matter that it wasn't fleshed out - I can't help but feel that if we'd spent too much time with them, it would have detracted from the story of her Grandfather, the Tiger's wife herself and (my favourite), the Deathless Man?

ETA: obviously, by "there" story, i meant "their" story... (!)

Aug. 11, 2011, 3:09pm

Being in NZ we can pay up to $40 for a trade paperback, but the main reason for the high cost in Australia and here is so the publishers can prop up local publishing with its smaller print runs. If we want to continue to see NZ and Australian writers in print then we have to bite the high cost bullet unfortunately.

Aug. 24, 2011, 7:28am

I have (finally!) gotten around to writing my review for The Tiger's Wife, on my thread. It's pretty much what we discussed above, anyhow. :)

avatiakh, ouch for a $40 price tag!

Bearbeitet: Dez. 8, 2011, 8:50am

Bumping this thread up, for a couple reasons. I read The Tiger's Wife in October, but didn't revisit this thread at the time. I'm one of those who loved the book. Here's what I said on my own thread when I finished it:

"What a storyteller this young author is. I loved every page, every sentence. It doesn't matter at all that I'm not sure what "meaning" to take away from the book, although I will certainly read it again--and soon--to see what gels the second time around.

We are given to understand that the present action takes place in the former Yugoslavia, sometime "after the war" that separated that country. There are place names a-plenty, and references to "the Marshal", border crossings, checkpoints, but the names that became so familiar in the 20th century--Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia, Srebrenica, Milosevic, Tudman--do not appear and the politics of the conflicts are totally absent, so it is almost possible to imagine everything happening just outside the known limits of the real world in a place where what feels fabulous to us can be accepted as normal. A tiger set free from a zoo ruined by bombing may find a soul-mate in a deaf, mute, abused woman. A man may fling himself from a cliff in despair at having lost his true love, only to find that he has broken Death's rules and cannot die. A taxidermist turned bear hunter may become one of the creatures whose pelts he collects. I found the magic of the words erased any fragment of disbelief in the magic of the stories. I am very aware that there are flaws in The Tiger's Wife as a Novel, but I don't care. I was swept away and astonished, and this will be one of my all-time favorite reads."

Reason No. 2: I've ended up with an extra paperback copy of the book. If anyone here would like to have it for January Orange reading, I'll be happy to mail it out.

Dez. 22, 2011, 6:09pm

Linda, really? I would adore to have a copy of the book and would certainly read it in January. My mind has boggled at the Down Under prices of a TRADE PAPERBACK???? I buy everything used or depend on Paperback Swap. That's my main reason for not having gotten to *TW* yet: the used prices are still out of my range.

Jan. 21, 2012, 10:35am

Linda, thank you for your very kind offer. I was thrilled to have your extra for my Orange January, and I feel guilty and a bit out of it that I didn't love it as you did. I didn't dislike it - I only came close to slogging a couple of times, but I didn't think it was a miracle on any count. That said, if it had been nominated for the New Writers prize, I would probably have voted for it.

Jan. 21, 2012, 4:27pm

Well, Peggy, you shouldn't feel guilty at all. Lightning will strike you some other time! So often what makes a book light me on fire is hard to convey to someone else, and we aren't all meant to love the same things, are we?

Jan. 21, 2012, 5:42pm

Yes, it would be a boring world if we all shared the same reading likes!

Jan. 23, 2012, 10:22pm

It's good that you had the opportunity to read it, and maybe through swapping it can find a new home with someone who loved it as much as Linda did.

I did really enjoy The Tiger's Wife though I thought there were even better books on the shortlist and longlist. The Memory of Love was the best of the listed books I read, I think - I also loved Swamplandia!, The Invisible Bridge and Lyrics Alley and I loved the international flavour of last year's list, I hope this year is as interesting.

Jan. 26, 2012, 3:51am

I am halfway through this one and am loving it. I really like Obreht's descriptive writing. Since I've not yet finished the book, I've not read the reviews above but am hoping that everyone loved it as much as I am.

Mai 19, 2012, 3:37am

I loved this one!! Ranks in the top 4 or so of Orange winners that I've read.

My review:

Sidenote: Those paperback prices in Australia are insane!

Okt. 10, 2013, 6:00pm

Obviously I'm late to the conversation, but I just wanted to say that I loved this book. It hits all the points I crave from a good read--a cultural backstory, engaging characters, and a little bit of whimsy. I will agree, though, with the point made above that Natalia was a bit weak. I seem to never like it when authors write the main character as a doctor. Secret Daughter is a case in point.

I'm curious what anyone has to say about Blood Letting and Other Miraculous Cures. I've read raves, but I'm still a little skeptical. (Sorry for diverging).

My favourite bits of this book were the stories about the deathless man. He pretty much pulled me along, as this novel was one that took a while for me to get into. I like the way it comes together in the end. Definitely worth the read.